Nothing and Everything has Changed

Regardless of how you may feel about the new administration, Brave Wisconsin will continue to fight for our residents, easement holders and non-easement holders facing the goliath oil  and pipeline companies.  Why?  Because the odds are not fair.  Because it isn’t right to take people’s land for private profit.  Because  pipelines of this capacity are unsafe. Because our planet depends on it. Because we are fighting for our lives and livelihoods.  Because solar industries now employ more people than the fossil fuel industries.  Because alternative energy is the path to the future. Because alternative energy is safer.Because our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren need clean air, water and land.  Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it is the intelligent thing to do.  Just because.

Yes,we are the underdogs.  Yes, it will be hard,  but unity is our most powerful tool.

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Shaken

This having been my second trip, I knew it would take a week or so for me to psychologically integrate my experience at Standing Rock. I didn’t count on the election which came four days after my return. I’m still in that half here, half there state, although the results of the election have thrown me into yet an additional state of being, which I just can’t quite identify.

I wrote about my first short trip to Standing Rock, where I visited Sacred Stone camp in The Stand, at bravewisconsin.com. Much of it still applies and succinctly addresses the issues as I see them. Some things changed after my second visit, which was spent at Oceti Sakowin camp, predominantly the urgency of the situation, the physical clashes, the presence or should I say overwhelming occupation by militarized police with all their accouterments for ‘crowd control’. I never feared arrest on my first trip. This time, I feared arrest. I feared my car could be impounded and I feared physical injury. The situation has escalated.

What hasn’t changed is the Native people’s heroic will to resist, to protect their land, their history, their heritage, their culture and their people. It is after all, a conflict about that, as much as a pipeline. Is our government listening? Are the people of the United States listening? Given the election results, I fear they are not. I fear history is about to repeat itself, in all its ugliness and pain. It is what is called progress. Ironically, I felt it was a recreation of the past, circa 1860, but with a modern twist. An odd time travel sensation has affected me since I left on the trip, and since I have returned, with full days missing from my memory. It’s getting better now, the more days that pass since my arrival home, and the more I resume my routine, but, it’s still hanging there, like a fog.

I was fortunate to speak to Bill McKibben for a good long time, enough time to say what I needed to say as a rural organizer in Wisconsin. He was curious about Brave Wisconsin. I’m extremely appreciative that serendipity afforded me this moment. It wasn’t like the skies opened up and angels sang. It was rather understated. He was standing to my left at an action, and I did a double take and introduced myself and it went from there. He said, ‘Ah yes, Wisconsin’ as he shook his head as he commiserated with me and we both commiserated about the Dakota Access.

My days were spent hanging around at the medic tent, socializing with mostly non-Native quasi medical folks except for one ER doctor, who had a rather dark sense of humor which I could appreciate.  Sometimes I napped in my car. I ate a ham sandwich carved by the ER doctor, from a large ham sitting in the back of his SUV.  I chided him on his surgical technique.  I served in the capacity of a medic (because there was actually no role for RNs) for two actions on two separate days for a total of 3 days, including the clergy march. I responded to a few mundane medical emergency at the camp and did one rather exciting adventure with another nurse to check out the action at the river when the DAPL guys were toting guns and antagonizing water protectors. I was there on the November 2nd action, which meant caring for those doused with pepper spray and shot with rubber bullets. It was my birthday. That felt very odd and contributed to my feeling of insignificance.

I wanted to change the course of history, we all did, but I was dwarfed by the magnitude of the forces of “progress”. I was and still am, one tiny snowflake in a swirling storm in a snow globe, with all my unique individuality blown anonymously around by the winds of history, much of my identity shredded. Not tethered to a tribe or a people there, I had only my battle in Wisconsin and my own quest for social justice, to unite me there in a common cause, a thin thread but enough to bind.  Yet, I am inextricably bound to the outcome on the Plains.

I was, indeed, deeply inside the snow globe I mentioned in The Stand and it was what I hoped and feared it would feel like.   It was a scene out of history, unchangeable, immoveable and sealed hermetically in a bubble and I wasn’t in control of any of it. It was in control of me.  Intermittently the globe was shaken. Yet, it was alive in there. You can’t know what it feels like, unless you melt into the bubble, and feel the storm of epic proportions in there. Yet countered at times by the calmness, the surreal peace you experience when you are on the right side of history, regardless of outcome. There were times of silent solitude within the crowd, and times of a great egoless song of unity with every other soul there. Heroism to Terror.  Inspiration to desperation. Many of the emotions are beyond words, and beyond poetry, beyond interpretation.

Each person who enters the snow globe will have their own interpretation of their experience, but I am sure that every one of us, has never felt anything like it before.

Most of my blogs end with inspirational ideas and phrases.  This experience has left me suspended in the gel of time and rather at a loss for words.  I’m waiting.  I’m hoping for a resolution of this situation which takes into account all the historical misdeeds perpetrated upon the Indigenous.

History is bleeding into the present.  It’s urgent.  I went to stop the bleeding, to bandage the wounds, to affect the prognosis, to promote survival,  and found myself being the one who needs the healing.

 

Tick, Tick, Tick

I’m sitting in my living room.  Other than the pouring rain on the roof, it’s very quiet and I’m alone with the ticking of the clock. My heart is starting to take a cue from the tick, tick, tick. I’m waiting to hear of a ride going out to the camps. Just waiting is nerve wracking. I’m not the fittest person to make this journey, but that doesn’t matter. I’m a body to occupy space.  That is all I am.  That is all I aspire to be.  I am one of the insignificant souls who is called.

A few of the things I have been told to bring are sitting on the couch, a wool sweater, wool mittens, wool hat. Luckily I just finished a wool sweater. It’s coming with me. I need to buy wool socks and underwear. I’m thinking about how difficult it is going to be to camp in a flimsy tent. Even a pricey winter tent isn’t much barrier between the skin and the cold. I haven’t been this close to nature in a very long time, this dependent on her mercy. I do hope she is merciful to her warriors.  I hope she is merciful to me.

It’s hard not to be deep in thought right now. I hope to be headed back to the camps in North Dakota. Not sure how I will get there this time. I’m not sure which camp I will be staying at. I’m not sure what we will find. I’m not even sure who my traveling companion is yet, but, I am sure a like minded soul will connect with me. We will be going via South Dakota, as the roads in North Dakota are blocked by law enforcement. Hostile territory.

This is the land of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, and many other nameless strong heroic people who remain anonymous to history, many acts of bravery from the masses, likely never recorded. Among some of the darkest periods of this country’s history, and there are many, is the theft of treaty land. Yet, every one is at risk, large farmers, small farmers, rural residents, rural towns and communities, Native people and their way of life.

It’s come to this. A stand. It can’t be clearer than this. Who is our government actually working for here. It’s not just happening in North Dakota, it’s also the farmers in Iowa who are finding themselves under arrest for being on their OWN LAND.

Yes, the economic driver of our country right now is fossil fuels.  Our politicians talk a fine line about attacking climate change, but what does our government do?  It steals land, from our Indigenous and our farmers.  STEALS.  Eminent domain does not compensate for the loss of this land, the heritage, the history, the bond that people have to their dwelling place.  Forcing people to give up their land for private profit, is wrong.  It’s just a wrong concept.  The only people profiting are the people involved in this industry.  The rest of us get risk.  We get our land stolen.  We get put at risk from pipeline leaks and explosions.  We get our daily lives interrupted by crews, integrity digs and general snooping on our lands.  Our creeks and rivers are at risk.  Soil is disturbed to never recover.  Drain tiles are broken. There has been a lot of damage already to our heritage farms.   Our lives are at risk if these lines break near us.

If you care about people’s rights, if you care about the Native American’s sovereignty, if you care about the promises this nation is breaking, if you care about our farmers in Iowa, the heartland of this nation, if you care about our neighbors in Minnesota and if you care about Wisconsin, it’s time take a stand. It’s time to stand with our brothers and sisters in North Dakota and Iowa.

You can find us on Facebook at Brave Wisconsin closed group, BRAVE WISCONSIN public group or Brave Wisconsin Community page.

It’s time to take a stand.

The Stand

 

I was asked to speak about my journey to North Dakota. To Sacred Stones Camp. Why I felt compelled to go, and what I saw there. I felt compelled to go for a number of reasons, none of them clearcut.  Perhaps, it is the fact that I once lived right on top of the 50 year old Line 6a, the Keystone sized tar sands line we have near Lake Mills.

Perhaps, it is that I now live near the beauty of the Crawfish river, which will be impacted by a spill.

Perhaps, I felt compelled to go in solidarity as a pipeline fighter.

Perhaps, it is because the Sandpiper which was coming our way, was diverted to the Dakota Access.

Perhaps, it is the wisp of Native ancestry in my genome, and some genetic memory contributed by an ancestor in my paternal line, that made me answer the call.

Regardless of the reason I decided to go, Sacred Stones needs more people to go, and stand with them. I profoundly regret that I had to return home quickly. I also regret that for me to stay could be a physical challenge, I may not be able to meet. I’m sorting through the possibilities in my mind right now. It’s rugged, it’s hard and it is a challenge for those who like to test their mettle. I’m thinking I will test my mettle. Soon. I may be crazy.

Nowhere is the cut of colonialism more evident than the painful gash near Standing Rock Reservation. When you see it, if you are truly in touch with being human, it will wound you deeply to the soul. You will not recover your former self. If for no other reason than self development, go, and stand with the Native peoples, but go humbly, and go to learn. Go as a student. Go with an open heart. Go knowing that our western way of life, our comfort caused this great tragedy. Understand you will be wounded.  You will eventually heal but you won’t be the same person. Understand this will take some time depending on your ego and it’s fragility. You will be bruised and built up at the same time. This trip will cause you great emotional and physical discomfort. If it does not, you went for the wrong reasons.

I have spent this last week mourning this gash inflicted by Enbridge, and I am some one who regularly sees their gashes here in my own neighborhood. I know I am partly responsible for that gash. It’s been a week of struggling with how to best impact this situation in a positive way. A week of feeling hopeless, helpless and humbled, and guilty for being in my warm dry house, yet inspired and uplifted by the strength of the people out there on the Plains especially the native people OF the Plains. It’s been a week without time, a week of grappling with cultural differences, a week of struggling with my own perspective on culture and race. A week evaluating my own ecological footprint, a week of quiet weeping and insomnia. I am endeavoring to integrate my experience and move forward. I’m still so in the depths of my own struggle, my own inadequacies concerning this issue, that I was very reluctant to speak about my trip. But here I am.

I arrived in Sacred Stone Camp last week about exactly this time of day, 2 pm on Sunday. The wind had been strong that day, and all of the tents except for the tipis had toppled or sustained damage. We had only planned a 3 day trip, as we had my grandson with us, a child we parent full time. My rainbow child. He is African American, Native American and Germanic in ancestry. He tells me he has a little of everything in him, and that he is just a kid. Just a gentle reminder, that a lot of what is going on is a bit above his comprehension level despite his effort to understand. He is wise beyond his years. This 6 year old child quietly endured a 12 hour ride out and a 12 hour ride back in 3 days. We arrived in Fargo to spend the night, at 8pm, only to  find not a single hotel room was available. Every hotel parking lot was packed with white Silverado trucks. The oil field workers and pipeline workers  from man camps filled the only city around, for  4 music concerts in town that night. Oil money buys you a big white truck and a ticket for the music concert of your choice, and a night at the priciest hotel in town. Yes, even that was full. It was the first gut punch. North Dakota is oil country. Oil is it’s major employer. It’s rich from oil and oil infrastructure.  We had to back track 57 miles to Fergus Falls Minnesota to spend the night, whereafter my grandson forgot his beloved stuffed animals in the hotel room that morning. After a panicked call to the hotel, we learned they had found them, and they would keep them for our return. We spent the night of our return at the same hotel, but this time did NOT forget the stuffed animals on our way home.  It was much cheaper this time, too.

We were pummeled by rain and/or high winds the entire trip both coming and going.

There is nothing of note between Fargo and Bismarck. I kind of liked that thought. There is comfort knowing there are parts of the planet devoid of identical strip malls.  I made a mental note to myself “Do not run out of gas there.” Ironic, I know. The very toxic syrup I was going to fight, is what transported me to the front lines of the battle against it. This speaks to our relationship with fossil fuels. Sad addiction.  It is addiction.  It will hurt like hell to wean ourselves off of this and there is no getting around it. We might as well get started as soon as possible and maybe give the next generation a chance at existence.

You are better off singing camp songs than listening to the radio. Cell phone coverage is iffy. Thinking to myself, plastic cell phone full of rare earth minerals. Every one drives a Silverado. No one drives a Subaru. Sticking out like a sore thumb already. I am conscious of being 2 hours shy of the Canadian border. I admit, part of me wanted to bolt. Part of me wants to live in a log cabin off grid, in the wilderness, and to never admit I am the legacy of the dark side of American history.

We arrived at the camp and were signaled through the barb wire gates by men whose faces were hidden. We were firmly told no pictures, we honored that. My only photos are from the road and purposely include no faces. We made our way to the donation area. We brought donations, both new and gently used. What is needed most are survival supplies, although we brought glass beads and supplies for beadwork, fiber supplies such as drop spindles and raw wool which Sea School has custody of now. We brought some brand new toys for the kids, mostly toys to keep kids busy.  Even raw survival needs some pleasant distraction. We brought military grade glow sticks and space blankets. What was most appreciated is what they asked for, Carhart jackets and boots. They are most in need of housing that can weather the wind and cold, tipis and yurts. I’m thinking a shed, with a deck for a foundation would be useful as a warming house. Foundations for buildings are a problem as nothing is permanent and everything has to be able to sustain high winds.

After housing, they are most in need of winter gear, hardy cowboy type gear, and they are in need of people to stand with them, people who can endure the rigors of winter on the Plains.  People who are willing to act on their beliefs.  Brave people. There have to be some of those around.

Don’t send blankets…one of the Native women named Gertrude, if I am correct, and myself had a good laugh over blankets. I quipped with her if you ask white people for help, we send blankets. She rolled with laughter at my self effacing remark, as she gave me a hug. They have piles of blankets under tarps….given the history of blankets as gifts to the Natives, I suggest that the zero degree sleeping bags be substituted.  The comforters were sent home with me.  Sleeping bags are more appropriate to the rugged conditions of the camp.

The Confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball River is beautiful. The river is an ever changing sparkling stripe of sandy brown, navy blue, and pale aquamarine. Sometimes indistinguishable from land, sometimes easily identified, bright blue like the sky or a deep navy. Horses are pastured in large fields. Paint ponies graze. Prairie grass undulates like waves in the sea. There are stubby buttes and unique boulders. I can understand the attachment to the land. It’s beautiful. I would fight for it myself. It’s a step back into time in more ways than one.  It’s steeped in history.  You can not escape it.

But, the landscape can also be also cruel. The wind was relentlessly blowing so hard one could barely stand. The bumper of our car had actually separated at the corner and was beginning  to peel off the front. The stuff of civilization was blowing everywhere as if Mother Nature wanted to blow it all away, including our car. Synthetic mountain tents flattened, their supports broken, and they looked like colorful pancakes all over the Plains. I sensed her anger…she wanted to scrape all the junk off the surface….scratching us like we were a troublesome itchy rash on her skin.  She may succeed in ridding herself her affliction soon if we continue to burrow like troublesome mites in her epidermis.

The medical tent at the small camp swayed. The  medic, Nick, was just recovering from the wind and putting supplies back on the shelves. I asked him how I could help. He asked for a back board and cervical collars. There is no way an ambulance can access the small camp, they need a way to carry folks to the main road. I imagined the difficulty in the dead of Winter, in the dark. He told me he has been on duty 2 weeks with no relief and the guilt set in. I wanted to stay to help. I promised to work on the backboards and C collars and getting help. I felt deflated at that moment.  Overwhelmed.

But as we left camp, I could see the tipis stood, strong, tall and pointing to the heavens, like icy mountain peaks. And I took some comfort in that. They have bent under pressure but not broken. They are an ingenious form of shelter perfect for the environment. Native people have a relationship with Nature that so far exceeds the average person’s concept. To the average person, nature is out there, not within here, in us. To the average western mind, nature is something to be feared and conquered, subdued and utilized. At Sacred Stones, nature is clearly part of the people. She is respected and loved and the Native people have the wisdom to survive. The Native people can speak more poetically and profoundly about their relationship with Nature than I ever can. The Native people will lead this. My role is as a humble student if they are willing to teach me.  I have a lot to learn.

Nevertheless, the people of Sacred Stones Camp face a monumental challenge to survive winter without electricity and fossil fuels that allow the comfortable existence of all of us here at home. They are going to survive it. I have no doubt. But many more will attempt it, if we can open our wallets as readily as we open our mouths.  We received contributions of very generous donors for our Brave Wisconsin mission. I can’t thank them enough.  It just takes so much more and so many more of us.

Brave Wisconsin opted to outfit the volunteer workers at the camp. I have outfitted two. I would like to outfit many more. It isn’t cheap. A Carhart jacket and Kamik boots run over $200. But this is what they need. It’s also a highly personal gift, which makes it fulfilling to give.  We were taken to meet LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of the camp.  I left my prayer bundles with her. I could sense the burden of running the camp in her face. It’s hard to be responsible for the fate of so many people and a movement of such historic significance. Leadership can be a lamentable situation for the person in it. I am sure it’s a mantel that many leaders would have preferred to have shed or never attempted to carry. But she did.
I am not the person to be the spokesperson for the NoDapl movement or even more so, for Sacred Stones Camp. I’m just a writer. I’m just an organizer. I am just a member of a pipeline community, whether here or there we share a commonality.  But with the camps on the Missouri River, I can only document my observations from the view of someone on the outer perimeter right now. I feel like I am looking at a scene in a snow globe and wondering do I really want to be in it?  There is no escaping it once I’m in that bubble.  14449799_1358875730807548_7874856355137459522_n.jpg

This is a very old struggle, out there on the Plains. To think that this is about anything other than that is to delude ourselves.  At least I can look back now, and answer the question if I had lived 150 years ago, where would I have stood. I would have stood in the same place I stand today.

All I know, is I long to go back.

Resources

Lots of folks are looking for information on the pipelines, past and present. You can start with our new Resource page which provides some links to credible third party sources.  There is a lot to learn about this issue and at times it seems overwhelming.  I will endeavor to add links as I can, as well as to keep you all updated.

We ARE on Facebook at Brave Wisconsin Community which is a news reel type page, Brave Wisconsin which is our 600+ member closed discussion group which you must ask to join and BRAVE WISCONSIN which is a public discussion group.

We can be reached at ourbravewisconsisn@gmail.com.

If you are an easement owner, or live within 1500 feet on either side of the pipeline easement, we encourage you to contact us at Brave Wisconsin or WISE Alliance.  We have an ever growing group of easement owners and adjacent property owners all along the line in Wisconsin and adjoining states.  Be in the know.  Keep informed of developments.

A Milestone

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This blog is going to be adding a page or two for our new readers, many of them owners of easement.  The goal of the Safety Kit program was to reach out to the landowners across  counties and, given last night’s phenomenal attendance at a landowner meeting, we have done that with flying colors!  We have a landowner organization in southern Wisconsin and it’s even growing south of the state line, in Illinois.  Representatives of their group SOIL, Save our Illinois Land attended our meeting. Our rural people have come together and they have a voice, a loud and clear voice, of inspiration and reason.  They are setting their course and as I predicted in an earlier blog, they will lead.  It was a bit of a bumpy road getting here but, we have arrived.

A big thank you goes out to all the donors, the seamstresses, the leafleters, the radio stations, especially Devil’s Advocates in Madison, and WBEV in Janesville/Beloit, Mike Daley and Stan Millum, the press, every one who helped us reach the folks that needed to be reached.  We are not done with our work, but we have reached a major milestone.

We had a wonderful meeting, the details of which I can’t blog about, of course, other than to say, our landowners and neighbors of the pipeline are pumped.  They fulfilled the two years of hopes and dreams I worked for.  Communication, education and organization.  I’m just about ready to retire to some deserted Caribbean island!  But wait, not so fast.  The landowners inspired me to assist THEM with their goals.  I’m not sure what form that will take,  that’s up to them, but, I’m convinced they will lead, as they should. Their voices have more weight, and their stories are more compelling.  Suffice it to say, that many of the pictures you have seen here and on Facebook, have been of the properties of people at our meeting today.

So some of their main needs right now are historical, legal and scientific information.  So we will be adding at least one page or two with resources so they can quickly come up to speed on the statistics, specs and all the technical whatnots that we have stored in our brains for the last 2 years.  Some of this information may help all of our readers, because if you haven’t followed us since the inception of this journey, it’s confusing.  Heck, it’s confusing even if you have.  So pardon our growing pains.  It’s all good!  Oh, and yes, there will always be a dose of snark with all those facts to keep things interesting.  We will also cover the latest of Enbridge’s antics because they are so darn entertaining at times. (snark).  And yes, I will still be prone to ramblings at 3am.

I have another hope and that is that our readers, and our landowners work together to make Wisconsin (and now Illinois) a safer, cleaner, and more just place to live.

You can reach us in the comment section or at ourbravewisconsisn@gmail.com